Saturday, 21 October 2017

IMCO Vote on Copyright in the DSM: crying tears of…?

Today, 8 June, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee voted on Copyright in the Digital Single Market [2016/0280(COD)]. IMCO was the 1st Committee to vote on the file, and is setting the direction for the other votes in the next weeks in the Culture and Education (CULT – 21 June), Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE – 29 June) and Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE – 11 July) Committees. The vote in the lead Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee will only take place after the summer break, and is currently scheduled for 28 September.

The IMCO Committee adopted its Opinion with 19 votes for, 7 against and 6 abstentions. It seems that the Members of the GUE/NGL and EFDD Groups failed to show up for the vote, whilst half of the ECR Group MEPs were also missing, as many of them are probably caught up in the UK elections vote taking place today. This resulted in a lot of the progressive and good amendments being rejected with tight votes. Luckily, the extremely harmful ‘alternative’ EPP Group compromise amendments that MEP Pascal Arimont (Belgium) tried to force down everyone’s throat did not make it in the end, as some common sense did creep into the debate.

So what’s the outcome?

The press publisher’s right (Article 11) is lava

The current trend on the Internet is a revival of the kid’s game ‘The floor is lava’, whereby if someone shouts that sentence at you, you have 5 seconds to get your feet off the ground in order not to get burnt. The result on Article 11 feels like a lot of MEPs  thought today was a good day to introduce the game in European Parliament votes as the end result of all the pulling and shoving between the Rapporteur’s proposal to delete Article 11, supported by every political group except the EPP Group, and the alternatives put forward by EPP Shadow Rapporteur MEP Arimont to put Article 11 on steroids resulted in … no amendments getting voted through, which means that the IMCO Committee decided to stick to the European Commission’s initial text, which is flawed as explained in our infographic.

However, some amendments were adopted to the Recitals linked to this provision, with mitigated results.

On the positive side:

  1. One of the major flaws of this provision was corrected, as the IMCO Committee decided to delete the retroactive application of this new neighbouring right as they adopted the Compromise Amendment on Article 18.
  2. EPP MEPs Eva Maydell (Bulgaria) and Antanas Guoga (Lithuania) their proposal to protect referencing systems, such as hyperlinks, from the scope of Article 11 were adopted.

The bad news: The IMCO Committee adopted recitals which heavily criticise digital platforms, such as news aggregators and search engines’ impact on press publishers, instead of recognising their added value to a pluralistic media sector. An amendment suggesting the extension of this right to ‘print’ publications also slipped through the cracks, as well as the addition of a reference to the obscure Rental and Lending Directive.

Text and Data Mining (Article 3): one step forward, two steps backwards

On the text and data mining (TDM) provision, a minimal extension to the scope of beneficiaries was agreed, but this small step forward is overshadowed by restricting the content that can be mined to only legally acquired content, which raises the question of freely accessible content. But then again, IMCO did not put much focus on this area so the job of fixing this very unambitious provision will need to be done in the other Committees.

The censorship filter (Article 13): putting checks and balances to the benefit of consumers…and the Internet

On the filtering of user uploaded content (a.k.a. the ‘censorship filter‘) the different political groups reached a sensible compromise by putting to vote the proposals for Article 13 and its Recitals that were proposed  by rapporteur Michal Boni in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). MEP Boni’s proposal whilst not perfect, clearly tries to ensure that the provisions of Article 13 do not disrupt the existing legal framework and established CJEU case law, whilst taking a technologically neutral approach and making sure users are not forgotten in this equation (see our full analysis here).

The adoption of these amendments give a clear signal from the IMCO Committee, which is an associated Committee on Article 13, to the lead Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee on which direction to take and also provides clarity on the EPP Group’s position.

Other good news: user-generated content and freedom of panorama exceptions

Remembering that it says ‘consumers’ in its denomination, the IMCO Committee managed to agree to include an exception for user generated content (UGC) in its Opinion, as well as a fully fledged freedom of panorama exception!

Conclusion

Rapporteur MEP Catherine Stihler (S&D, UK) must be commended for the excellent job she did under difficult circumstances (including having male colleagues shout at her at the end of a vote, which is not exactly a display of good manners in our book), as well as MEP Boni for delivering a sound compromise position on the censorship filter. But a lot of work still needs to be done and every MEP in this dossier will need to take her/his responsibility and vote for the outcome to truly reflect all views. Not showing up is simply not an option when more than half of the good amendments get rejected due to tied votes!


What others are saying

 

Caroline is coordinator of the Copyright 4 Creativity (C4C) coalition. She is also the founder and Managing Director of N-square Consulting (N²), a Brussels-based public affairs firm. She is the author of ‘iLobby.eu: Survival Guide to EU Lobbying, Including the Use of Social Media’.